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Thursday, May 30, 2013

Who Am I?!

When I was in junior high, we had to take home ec. I was on a different path; I wanted bright lights and big cities, even then. I wasn't interested in those things my mom and grandmothers did: sewing, quilting, embroidery, gardening, cooking. I viewed them as weights holding me back. (Shop class, however, got my seal of approval. Go figure.) I never finished my home ec skirt, and I really didn't care.

Fast forward to college, where I was pursuing a theatre degree. We were required to put in mandatory crew hours, either in props, costumes, scene shop, etc. I tried hard enough to not annoy my costume teacher, primarily because I really respected her, but it was clear I did better in the scene shop. I learned to read scenic drawings, and I was given the role of crew chief my freshman year. I feigned toughness, and would climb huge A-frame ladders that were crowned with a vertical portion that went straight up, all the while hauling a lighting instrument with one hand. When I hit my mark, I would hook my leg around a rung, pull my wrench from my pocket, and hang the light. When I was done, I'd skitter back down and do it again.  I helped assemble rolling scaffolding that would become my workplace for weeks as I headed a paint crew. I ran band saws and table saws and miter saws, and, for the most part, I liked it.

Meanwhile, back in June Cleaverville, by necessity, my cooking skills were called upon. It was like they had always lurked under the surface. I came from a make-it-from-scratch background. TV Dinners were a rare treat. Brownies, cookies, and cakes did not come from boxes.  My talent in the kitchen is something that just emerged one day, like a hibernating bear, and I have put it to good use.

As I navigated my way through my arts career, I sought respite outside of the stresses of work. While no one in my family knitted (one grandma dabbled in crochet), knitting was always calling me. My neighbors (Pakistani girls who had been taught by an aunt who was Swiss and who married into the family) taught me a cast on and knit. I couldn't purl and I couldn't bind off. Finally, when I was in my late 20s and living in Chicago, I took a class that led me down the path to stash and fiber content and color, color, color.

I dabbled in hand stitching every now and again, but nothing serious. A few months ago, I became aware of the work of Richard Saja and his whimsical toile pieces. I was smitten. Starting with Vegas Elvis (meets Our Lady of Guadalupe) eating a big piece of bacon, I am creating my own Rock and Roll Toile of Fame. Elvis has left the embroidery hoops, and Bruce and the Big Man are on deck. David Bowie, Jack Black, and Annie Lennox await their turns in the wings.

Just recently, my focus has shifted to sewing...machine sewing. I had a Singer sewing machine (the treadle kind in a lovely wooden cabinet) that was in my bedroom during my teen years. When my parents split, mom moved some things to her parents' for safe-keeping, and unlike the hoarders found in her progeny, my grandmother strips away all but the necessary, and she gave the sewing machine to her brother, who gave it to his wife whom he later divorced, and she subsequently sold the machine out of the family. All the while, my grandmother had no idea how much I wanted the old Singer. At the time, I was living my life touring the country doing theater, so there was no place for me to keep it. After it became clear that my great-grandma's machine was never coming back, I set out looking for one that was similar, which I finally found an antique shop just a few blocks from my house. It's not the same, but it's close, and the price was reasonable. Now it's become my sewing totem.  Ever since it was delivered, I have been amassing patterns and fabric at a mad pace. I wash and iron the pieces, I sort, I cut, I sort some more. I have yet to sew (my electric Singer machine needs to move upstairs), but I have big plans.